**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a close friend, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.
They met on Bumble. She said she was looking for someone to have fun with but was also open to something more serious. "Tony" had been single for a year following a bad breakup and was looking for a fresh start. They clicked instantly and hit it off from the very first date.
"Our first date lasted for twelve hours," he reminisced. "We had so much in common, and there was an undeniable spark between us. We kept talking and laughing until the restaurant closed, then we went to a bar and kept the party going."
She was a flight attendant, so she traveled a lot. "It was normal for her to be gone several days a week," Tony said, "but even when she was away, we never stopped talking. We stayed connected and grew closer as a result of it."
The pair talked about marriage and even started to plan a future together. They had been together for more than four years, and he had no idea she was already married with two children.
"I gave her a ring, and she told my mother that she couldn't wait to build a family with me," he said, "all the while, she was married to someone else with a family of her own. I was completely in the dark."
The truth finally came out when her husband called him looking for her. "He'd found my number in her cell phone and immediately put two and two together," he said. "The poor guy was more devasted than I was – he had been completely oblivious to her affair."
The two men realized that she'd deceived them both. "It's crazy that, out of all the people in the world, I fell in love with a compulsive liar," he said. "It's a hard pill to swallow."
Tony has since moved on and is now in a healthy relationship built on trust and respect. "I know it's all because I've developed a better understanding of myself."
They say we all go out into the world looking for our parents. In Tony's case, he sought the intimacy and connection he didn't experience in his childhood. He was drawn to someone who said what he wanted to hear, even when the red flags started piling up.
"She always made excuses about why I couldn't meet her parents," he said. "But I never asked the right questions, so I was blind to what was going on."
"If what you want is a long-term relationship, then finding someone with relational self-awareness is far more important than finding someone who “checks the boxes” of education level, income, height, or any of the myriad other things with which we tend to concern ourselves." —Alexandra H. Solomon Ph.D.
Relational Self-Awareness (RSA) is a process that helps us become aware of our patterns and tendencies in relationships. Learning to recognize our triggers, understand our beliefs, and identify our needs is essential to forming healthy bonds.
Tony now understands the importance of taking the time to get to know someone, as well as getting to know himself better. "I've learned that I need to be comfortable in my skin first before I can be comfortable in a relationship," he said. "It's crucial to be aware of my feelings and not let them get the best of me."
Intuition is a lot more accurate than some might believe. Tony's friends had all seen warning signs, but he ignored them. "I was in love," he said, "but now I know that I was blinded by the idea that I'd finally found 'the one.'"
It can be hard to tell when someone is telling the truth and when they're lying. Paying attention to cues such as body language, avoiding eye contact, and verbal tics can provide invaluable information about the person's honesty.
"This desire to believe in our partners may prevent us from detecting their unfaithfulness, even if it’s clear to strangers." —Gwendolyn Seidman Ph.D.
"I'm much more aware now," Tony said. "I've learned to trust myself and read between the lines." He urges others to be honest and open with themselves, too. "It's the only way to make sure you're with someone who deserves your trust."
Ignoring behavior that might be a sign of unfaithfulness is not uncommon. Sometimes, we want to believe that the people we care about are being honest with us.
Have you ever had to face the truth about someone's dishonesty? How did you react, and what lessons did you learn? Share in the comments.
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